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What is the main theme in the poem "Do Not Go Gentle Into the Night" by Dylan Thomas?

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hannahmm | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 9, 2010 at 4:52 AM via web

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What is the main theme in the poem "Do Not Go Gentle Into the Night" by Dylan Thomas?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 9, 2010 at 4:57 AM (Answer #1)

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IN my opinion, the main theme of this poem is old age and death and the ways in which people should face those things.

The speaker in the poem repeatedly urges that people should not just give up.  They should not "go gentle."  Instead, they need to fight against what happens to their bodies as they grow old.  And they need to fight for as long as they can against death.

The speaker is also saying that we should keep trying to do whatever our life's work was.  We should realize we haven't done all we want and so we should keep raging, keep fighting, as long as we can.

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mkcapen1 | Middle School Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted April 9, 2010 at 5:18 AM (Answer #2)

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For me the main theme of this poem is that one needs to embrace every moment one can in life.  When looking at the lie "Do not go gently into this good-night," one can see that one should take up fight against death.  The will to live should be strong and defiant.

Death comes to all of us in time, but one should fight for life ad to experience all that one can.  Rage and anger at the idea of death are another them in the poem.  As a person ages he/she faces imminent death.  This does not mean that one has to grace it but rather stay busy and do things until it comes and takes you.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 9, 2010 at 5:34 AM (Answer #3)

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Dylan Thomas's "Do Not Go Gentle Into the Night" was written as a plea to his dying father, David John Thomas, an English grammar teacher who had a powerful influence in his life.  Ironically, Dylan Thomas himself died a year later.

While the poem has three parts to it, it is an affirmation of life to the last breath, a refusal to die quietly and passively.  In the first part, the speaker provides an introduction to the speaker's message.  Then, in the four stanzas that follow, the speaker provides examples of what he means.  In telling his father to "rage against the night," the speaker offers examples of what wise, good, brave, and wild men have done:

Old age should burn and rave at close of day

Good men,....crying how bright their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, and learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight

Finally, in the last stanza, the tone is much more personal as the speaker addresses father exhorting him to fight against death as a man should.

And, you, my father, there on that sad height,/Curse, bless me now, with your fierce tears, /I pray

Do not go gentle into the night.

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